In 2012 Facebook listed as a public company, and starting in 2014 (for mine) Facebook became serious about its advertising platform.
One of Facebook’s first moves to increase revenue was to dramatically reduce organic reach to fans of business pages. If businesses wanted to reach their fans they had to pay for it. Unfair? Not really – it’s their platform (always, always remember this – you don’t own the data they do) and they can do as they please.
Fast forward several years, and this move (forcing people to use ads rather than providing organic reach) has rocketed Facebook to one of the most profitable and valuable companies in the world.
Now there are several million active advertisers on the Facebook platform and that 65% of every new digital marketing dollar spent goes to either Facebook or Google.
Facebook is a 24/7 sales machine that has more data on people and their wants and needs than any company to have ever existed. When used well there is no better platform to pro-actively engage your customers and reach new audiences.
Facebook ads for beginners
This article will take you through the A-Z of Facebook Ads Manager, specifically creating ads, using my own agency, The Plus Ones, as a template. Broadly speaking it is broken down into the following sections:
1) Facebook ads manager 2) How to target effectively 3) Budgeting to maximise reach 4) Making good creative 5) Data – what’s important?
I’ll also talk through the important areas of each phase so that your ads have a better chance at generating an impact.
Facebook Ads Manager
Facebook Ads Manager is the backend of Facebook and where the majority of advertisers go once they are past the ‘boost post’ phase of their Facebook journey.
Facebook also has a ads system called ‘Power Editor’. Old skool pros tend to favour Power Editor because it usually receives fancy new features earlier than Ads Manager however it’s interface is a bit trickier.
If you’re just starting out I’d definitely recommend Ad Manager. The interface is better and Facebook is slowly merging Power Editor with Ads Manager so they’ll hopefully be one and the same in time.
Ads Manager allows you to utilise a plethora of options and get the Facebook data juggernaut working in your favour.
When you first login to Facebook you are faced with a slightly daunting dashboard.
To start creating an ad the button you want to click on is in the top right.
The big green one – Facebook does like to make things clear when it wants you to spend money.
There are several objectives that you can choose from. Selecting the right one for the campaign you’re after is incredibly important.
I can’t stress this enough.
Facebook wants to work for you (and it will be your best employee) but you have to define what you want. After all, it’s just a machine…
We tend to focus on five objective types over others. This is more a function of our client base but the ones we focus on, I think, are the most powerful options.
Traffic – we all need traffic (why do you think I write these blog posts). This objective will drive traffic to your site.
If you select it, the traffic objective shows your ads so that Facebook will show it to people more likely to click through to your website.
How does Facebook know that? It’s the algorithm – this mathematical beauty knows what people click on from past actions and what they’re likely to click on going forward.
It analyses millions of bits of unstructured data and decides who in your targeting pool will find your ad most relevant and useful.
The algorithm is a learning tool though so try to give it a few days to suss things out.
Engagement – it’s always important to ensure you are engaging your audience. If you select this objective Facebook will show it to people that are more likely to like, comment or share.
This is Facebook gold. When people like, comment and shares your ad will then get shown organically to other people in the interact-ees network. Engagement is one of the reasons why the Facebook platform is so, so powerful.
Lead generation – remember how I mentioned that Facebook owns the data on its system? This objective gives a little bit of power back to you. If you select it, with one click, people in your audience can give you their email address. I’ll explain why this is so important later.
Conversions – we all want more sales right? This option is great for e-commerce stores. There are multiple conversion options but most people want purchases. Based on millions of data points Facebook will show your ads to people most likely to actually buy something!
Easy right…if only!
After you settle on an objective you will be asked to name the ‘campaign’. There are three levels to a Facebook ad: Campaign, Ad Set and Ad.
Facebook puts all objective ‘types’ under a campaign. So if you want to create a conversion ad in a traffic campaign you can’t. You need to create a new campaign that can only have conversion ads in it.
In light of this, I always suggest that you name your campaigns as the objective type you have in mind. For example, if you select traffic just leave the campaign name as traffic. It will help you later – trust me!
After hitting ‘continue’ you’ll face a second naming option. This is for ad sets and where you will spend most of your time when making Facebook ads.
In this section I tend to fill in the name last. This is because I want it to be as specific as possible. In the name itself I want to know the specifics of who I am targeting and I don’t know this until I have filled out the targeting options. To be fair once you have done several thousand ads sets you tend to be able to fill it in straight away.
The image shows that I have 1) named the ad ie what it’s actually about 2) which audience I am targeting 3) demographic information about the audience
Creating a proper naming convention for your ads will save you a ton of time when analysing the results of your ads. Try to make the ad set name as specific as possible.
How To Target Effectively
Where to start!
Broadly speaking there are three types of targeting options in Facebook:
Custom audiences – are the beez-knees! They enable you to target audiences that have connected with you in one of four key ways:
1) signed up to your email list
2) visited your website
3) watched a video
4) engaged with a post
I’ll take you through the important of each custom audience type in the next section.
Email audiences – Facebook enables you to upload lists of people that have opted in to your email list and PRO-ACTIVELY reach them on the Facebook platform. The word pro-active is key here. 100% of people will see your message – IF you spend enough to see them.
Facebook matches the email that a person provided for your database with the email they used to sign up with to Facebook. If it matches, you can target those audiences in the Facebook system. Typically you can expect a match rate of +60%. It’s important to note that you can’t target an individual person due to a raft of privacy regulations and you usually need an audience size of ~1,000 people (although this can vary depending on how Facebook feels at the time). Emails are hashed when they are uploaded and cannot be exported out of the system which keeps everything nice and secure.
Use Lead Ads to get more emails
Facebook has now made it much easier for people to provide you with their email. It’s an option called ‘Lead Ads’. These are one-click forms with people’s details pre-filled. This is important given most people use Facebook on mobile and don’t want to fiddle with tiny opt-in forms.
In Australia, we have the highest rate of Facebook mobile usage in the world. Furthermore one in every three minutes that people spend on mobile apps is on Facebook. Have you ever tried to fill in your details on an online form? It’s a pain. The pre-filling of details saves time. Better yet, people don’t have to leave their Facebook app to provide you the details. I don’t know about other countries, but in Aus – using the internet on your mobile is akin to going back to dial up. One click – it removes a large barrier to entry when asking for someone’s data.
Emails are stored safely in the leads ad section of your connected Facebook page. Only page admins can export the data (never give external parties admin access to your page – editor access is just fine). You can also connect Zapier to transfer emails to your lists and automated email marketing program…
Don’t forget your email marketing program – just because you target people that subscribed to on Facebook don’t forget that you should still be running an email marketing program. It’s free, you don’t have to keep paying Facebook to reach your audience. We pay Facebook when we want to pro-actively reach people that aren’t opening your emails ie the 70% of people that never see your email.
Emails are yours, you own the data
We like emails because you own the data. While we can’t envisage a world without Facebook, tech companies come and go with the wind. Remember Myspace? Or that IBM was the dominant tech company through the 80s, then Microsoft in the 90s, then Google through the 00s, then Apple (albeit more of a hardware company). Now a mix of Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple dominate our digital lives. Who is to say where Facebook will be in 10 years, 20 years.
To be able to re-target (target people that have visited your site) you must have the Facebook pixel installed on your website. The pixel works by matching people that are logged into Facebook (regardless of the device they use) with people that visit your site ie if people visit your site when they are logged into Facebook then their data is captured by the Facebook platform and you can target them in future Facebook campaigns.
I can’t stress this enough – if you don’t have a Facebook pixel on your site – get one on there. Vamos, vamos, vamos! I’m trying to learn some Spanish using the Duolingo app…the other day the app told me that I was 1% ‘fluent’…la manzanas.
Anyway, being able to target people that have engaged with you is the best form of marketing. The Facebook pixel enables businesses to do this. The scope of what you can do with the Facebook pixel is immense (I won’t even try to cover it all here) but there are two key dimensions to why it is so useful: relevance and timeliness.
Create web targeting audiences
Once you have a Facebook pixel installed you can create website re-targeting audiences. Yeyy!
Head on over the audiences.
Select custom audience in the top left.
Select ‘Website Traffic’ and then the time period over which you want to create your audience. The maximum period Facebook will allow you to do this is 180 days. I suggest creating audiences of people that have visited your site over 180 days and 30 days. The 30 day audience will be ‘warmer’ while the 180 day audience will be larger.
If you don’t have any options for targeting, for example, you may have just installed your Facebook pixel, then Facebook’s detailed targeting option may need to be your first port of call.
If you do have audiences, you can use it to slightly refine who you target but don’t put blind faith in ‘detailed’ targeting. Why? Take a look at what Facebook thinks you are interested in and you’ll quickly see why. This is how Facebook determines who to target based on detailed targeting. I’m personally targeted on over 500 things. I never knew I was such an interesting person.
Having said that, for smaller businesses, or top of the top of the funnel advertising going out to a larger audience is ok and there are worse things you can do.
Ad connection type
The last type of targeting option is connection targeting.
This setting will enable you to target or exclude your fans (if you want to reach only new people for example), people that have connected with your app or responded to an event. It will also enable you to target their friends.
It’s a powerful targeting option and you should use it. Be aware though that if you use it in combination with other audiences ie custom or detailed Facebook will narrow that audience to people that BOTH are in the custom audience ie your email list AND like your page.
For this reason if you use this I always recommend setting up another ad set which specifically targets your connections.
When people think ‘targeting’ this is usually their first thought. Geographic location and age range.
Facebook makes targeting in this way super simple.
If you want to target specific suburbs because you have a physical location use postcode targeting. Otherwise, a radius of 25 miles is generally a-ok.
You can narrow a radius to a minimum of 1 mile if you set a specific location.
This will help you to at least start from a point that is more relevant for your business.
Selecting placements enables you to decide where people see your ad. There are several key placement options.
See how Facebook recommends automatic placements? Definitely don’t do this…
Device types in general should be set to mobile and desktop. Be aware that Facebook will serve the majority of your ads to mobile so if you know that your audience makes purchases on desktop then maybe just select desktop only. If you do this you will have lower reach and ad costs might be a bit higher. This shouldn’t be a worry though if you actually are making more sales.
When we run campaigns we tend to turn off Instagram (it’s very expensive to get people to click off the site) so we only use it for awareness style campaigns. We turn off Audience Network – the people that click through rarely convert. We turn off Messenger – it’s still too immature as a placement option to be effective but could be great down the track.
So that just leaves Facebook.
Feeds is where you want to be. This is the place that people are used to consuming information, Facebook ads and importantly in a place to take action on your ads.
I have never clicked on an ad in an Instant Article (these are shown as ads when people click on a publisher’s link ie The Huffington Post. I have also never clicked on an ad that appears in my right column (although these are good for awareness). In-stream videos are super annoying and usually make me skip the rest of the video when they start.
So Feeds is where we tend to place all of our ads.
Budgeting To Maximise Teach
Budgeting on your Facebook campaigns should be all about the data – the science. In our experience, this usually only contributes half the success. The rest is art, or, if you will – experience.
We have found that there are three factors that meld together when trying to figure out how to budget a Facebook campaign. Annoyingly they’re not all in your control hence why budgeting across these three dimensions becomes more of an art versus outright science.
1) Potential Target Audience Size
After you enter your information on:
– custom audiences – set the location you’re targeting – detailed targeting options
Facebook will provide an indication of how many people fit your targeting criteria on its platform. Remember this targeting should represent your best guess about the people that would be most responsive to your ad.
Depending on what type of messaging you are running your audience size will vary drastically. As an example, if you are running an awareness campaign using video your audience size could be in the hundreds of thousands of people. Alternatively, if you are running an ad to a re-targeting audience that visited your site in the last day your audience size might be materially smaller.
Anyway, let’s say that after narrowing down the potential audience your total audience size is 10,000 people. Now you have to decide on how much you want to spend to reach these people.
Our rough rule of thumb is that $10 will result in a reach of around 1,000 people or a CPM of $10. So to reach these 10,000 people, 10,000 people that you think are really interested in you, it’s just going to cost $100 right? Not so fast…
The $10 rule is an easy one to use, but there are other factors at play which will sway the actual costs of your ad and therefore the amount of people that you actually reach.
To provide some background, when you place a Facebook ad you are competing with other advertisers hoping to show an ad to someone in the target group. Facebook’s algorithm is a closely guarded mosaic that I suspect only a handful of people are completely across. But in a nutshell, if you select automatic bidding it will determine who to show your ad to in the group of 10,000 at the lowest cost based on your budget and time frame. In general, we find that the automatic bidding system is fine and dandy particularly with smaller amounts of spend and a longer time frame.
If you have a really small target group that you know are hot to trot you can use manual bidding. When you do this you can put in a much higher bid in order to ensure that your ad is shown to people.
…back to costs. How much should you budget for given the 10,000 people? The answer is you don’t really know. Facebook could show it to 5,000 people for your $100 or 10,000. The way it’s determined is on whether that audience is being targeted by a ton of other advertisers competing for their eyes, how much you’re willing to spend AND how relevant your ad is. You have no control over other advertisers – but you can do your best to try and make your ad a thumb stopper.
It is well known that the Facebook platform takes a little time to work. Try not to run ads for less than three days. This gives the algorithm time to optimise ie see who’s clicking on the ad and start showing it to other people in your defined target group that are likely to do likewise.
When you’re thinking cross the dimensions on Facebook when it comes to budgeting 1) potential reach 2) how much your ads are costing you the timeframe question is also important.
Give ads three days minimum and let the Facebook algorithm work for you.
Facebook’s relevance score is assigned to each ad from 1-10. In essence, it is Facebook’s view of the ‘quality’ of your ad to consumers. If you have a relevance score of 10 it means that people are responding positively to your ad. There are also two other metrics called ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ feedback. I’m a little sceptical on the impact of these though because I have seen far too many ads perform well from a cost, relevance score and conversion perspective ie low costs, high relevance scores and lots of sales that also have ‘high’ negative feedback.
How Should I Budget?
So – how do you decide how much to spend? Start with the $10 rule. Then see how many people you’re actually reaching and the frequency that Facebook is showing your ads to people with. If, at the end of your initial $100 campaign to reach 10,000 people, you see that you have a:
– high frequency targeting a group of 10,000 people – Facebook is showing your ads to just 5,000 of them ie reaching the same people repeatedly – you have a high relevance score You can bet that other advertisers are outbidding you within the Facebook platform. Or, in other words your campaign has stalled. To kick start it again you can shift to manual bidding or start a new ad set with new creative. The issue with starting a new ad set is that your targeting will reset in the Facebook system and may simply be shown to the same 5,000 that saw it the first time.
What’s A Good Result?
This is always industry and messaging/offer dependent. If you’re trying to sell a $1,000 product versus a $10 product you will experience a different range of outcomes on Facebook.
You should know a range of your industry stats and see if yours are comparable. In general, we use the following metrics as a starting point:
– 0.50c to get a click to site – $1.50 to get an email signup (this is highly variable depending on what you’re offering) – $10-15 to sell an $80 product
Optimisation for ad delivery
When you place a Facebook ad you are competing against thousands of other advertisers to show your ad to a person. In general (and for once) Facebook’s automatic option is the best way to go for most advertisers.
The time to change it is if you see your campaign stalling. Stalling, in this context, means that Facebook doesn’t keep delivering it to new people but keeps showing your ad to the same people repeatedly. When this happens you will see your ad frequency increase.
Effectively, this is Facebook telling you that you are not paying them enough to show your ad to people in your target group versus other advertisers.
If this happens to you – and it happens to everyone at some stage your main option is to use a manual bid.
Here Facebook will actually tell you how much you need to spend in order to get in front of your desired audience.
The ‘suggested bid’ represents the maximum that you’re willing to pay for a click (or whatever objective it is you’re after).
Making Good Ad Creative
Now that all of the yucky technical stuff is out of the way you can start to get creative.
This section will take you through our experience with ad creative after managing 1000s of campaigns.
My main learning is that every business is different! Unfortunately you just need to keep testing and tinkering to find out what is best for you. Remember what works one month may not keep working for the next.
People tend to consume Facebook information in the following order:
1) image/video 2) heading 3) by-line 4) main copy
They do this in a fraction of a millisecond – this is all the time you have before they decide whether to go any further.
We find that businesses spend a lot of time on copy. It is important but it’s more important that your image is a ‘thumb stopper’.
Without decent creative your ad is destined to be lost in the news feed so make sure you spend some time crafting something unique.
There a several formats in the Facebook ad system.
Single image – these tend to work better versus carousel and video ads if you want people to click through to your site. They are simple but powerful.
Carousel – if you have multiple items you can use these however I think they are a bit dated and prefer to use collection ads. We tend to find that people don’t engage with them as much either and the title format is a bit clumsy.
Video – as mentioned before video is generally awesome on Facebook. However people don’t tend to click on it for more information ie learn more. Instead they expect to consume all of the information within the Facebook platform. So if you’re running a campaign designed to increase web traffic don’t use video!
When I think about creative on Facebook there are four key elements: image, main title, sub-title and copy.
Image – this is by far the most important. If you don’t have professional looking images you are going to struggle. It’s worth investing in getting some that best showcase what you’re all about. Facebook has some handy tips here.
In the image itself, a little bit of text is fine. People get worried as Facebook somewhat arbitrarily applies a 20% of text rule (if there is more than 20% of an image covered in text it may reduce reach or not allow the ad at all). However people also respond well to clear crisp messages in an image ie an inspirational quote.
Sub-title – people often forget about this but it is prime real estate. Put in your call-to-action in the sub-title or give people dates to create a sense of urgency ie the offer lasts for the next two hours etc.
Copy – ah copy, there is so much to be said about copy. Good copy captivates people and speaks to their needs by telling a story. Most people are not natural copy writers but it can be learned. Here are some tips for ‘cold emails’ that I think are equally applicable to copy on Facebook.
Some basic pointers. If you are writing for an audience that already knows you, a warm audience, longer copy is ok.
How warm is warm? I would say if someone has visited your site in the last 30 days they probably have some interest in your business. I find that ‘story’ style copy works well with warm audiences.
If you are advertising to a cold audience – people that don’t know you ie a lookalike audience then brevity is preferable. The image and title is probably as far as they are going to get and you shouldn’t waste too much time crafting the perfect copy.
There are reams and reams of posts and information on how to write good copy. Remember, it’s important for you to find a voice for your business and use what’s working for you. As with much of the Facebook marketing world, what works for others won’t necessarily work for you.
Remember that Facebook pixel we talked about early. It’s importance cannot be overstated. Well this is where it works its magic once more. Tracking.
Always, always make sure it is turned on.
Data Analysis – What’s Important
Ok so you worked out Ads Manager, you finessed targeting, you created your ad.
Now the numbers are rolling in. And I mean THE numbers – there are literally hundreds of them. The numbers are the lifeblood of your future success but what do they mean?
Impressions – the number of people (not unique) that saw your ad. So if 1,000 people see your ad twice you will record 2,000 impressions.
Reach – the number of people (unique) that saw your ad. So if 1,000 people saw your ad twice you will record 1,000 impressions.
Clicks – the number of people that clicked anywhere on your ad.
Website clicks – the number of people that actually clicked through on the link embedded in your ad.
There are hundreds of these and Facebook does a pretty good job of explaining what each one is. This definitely wasn’t the case when we first started using the platform, many, many moons ago!
I won’t go through and list them all here – but if you’re ever stuck Google is your friend 😉
Which Facebook Metrics Are Actually Important?
The answer is, it depends.
Most importantly it depends on the objective that you are targeting.
If you are running a lead generation ad then you want to know how many emails you gathered. If you are running a conversion campaign focused on purchases then the you want to know how many sales you are getting and at what cost they are converting.
This is why it’s super important to be crystal clear on the objective that you’re seeking from the get go. It was one of the first things I mentioned in this post. Without this in mind there is no real way to judge the success of your campaigns.
Facebook is always updating its platform. That’s what makes it so good! This guide has been designed to provide you with the core context for creating Facebook ads for your business.
I would personally say that the most important thing is that you get started somehow. Just do something. Do it on a small scale until you become more comfortable but do it consistently.
That is how we started.
– Rukmal Co-founder of The Plus Ones, Rukmal lives and breathes digital marketing.